Ultimate Island Food: Lobster & Black Bean Spring Rolls

Lobster Black Bean Spring Rolls 1

Lobster Black Bean Spring Rolls 2

Irie’s Island Food in Port Aransas (part of the Texas Gulf Coast) is the BEST ON THE ISLAND. Hands down. Everything they make is absolutely delicious, vibrant, and as from-scratch as possible. It doesn’t hurt that they’re walking distance from the ocean (read: absurdly fresh seafood).

One of my favorite things I tried there? Lobster and black bean spring rolls. Might sound like a weird combination, but it WORKED. Flaky spring roll wrappers are stuffed with fresh lobster, lots of black beans, and jack cheese, then deep fried and served incredibly hot. These guys are gigantic, too – one spring roll is equivalent to about 2-3 you’d get in your average Chinese takeout order. And you get three per order, so basically the amount of nine spring rolls. You could feed 3-4 people here, but obviously Rob and I split the entire order. Irie’s spring rolls also come with an array of bright, flavorful, also from-scratch dipping sauces (Golden Dragon was my #1) and some fresh slaw.

Irie’s is only open morning to mid-afternoon, and they often run out of their most popular seafood items. Our solution? Although maybe not traditional breakfast fare, we wolfed down these lobster spring rolls as our breakfast appetizer. Best breakfast ever, I’d say.

If you don’t live near the Texas coast, you could easily duplicate these at home – the rolls, at least. Just get some spring roll skins and stuff them with your favorite seafood (obv lobster is the top choice), black beans, and melty cheese, then fry those babies up. The dipping sauces would be harder to copy… me, I’ll probably just start planning another island getaway to Irie’s soon. I seriously think about how good it was all the time. It’s creepy.

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Food Porn of the Day: Nacho Mountain

Pile of Nachos Lavaca St Grill

When we ordered “nachos” at Lavaca Street bar IN AUSTIN, I didn’t realize that meant “a giant metal sheet pan filled to the brim with freshly fried tortilla chips smothered in both queso fresco and hot melted queso, spicy black beans, sour cream, fresh pico, and tons of jalapenos.” Really the giant sheet pan aspect and the combination of fresh cheese plus hot queso made these a shocking success. Plus the SHEER SIZE. This is like ten pounds of nacho.

Nacho Mountain

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Endless Pairings: Negra Modelo

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Mexican beer and fall-themed food. The perfect complement? Well, that’s what were determined to find out when Negra Modelo sent us a “pairing kit” to put it to the test. When presented with the opportunity to taste test, my answer is almost always yes. Negra Modelo sent us a box full of spices from The Spice House, two tulip glasses, a wooden cutting board, and a $50 Visa gift card to purchase the goods. Challenge accepted. Think of it as the at-home version of Chopped. Being seasonal food fans (mainly fall), we began planning a menu of fall foods that would highlight the spices (follow The Spice House recommendations) and pair well with a Vienna (dark) lager. Yes – a European beer style from Mexico. Here’s the menu:

  • Aged Cabot Cheese with apples, fig jam, balsamic glaze, and crostini
  • Spiced roasted brussels sprouts
  • Sweet potato puree with nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Ribeye steak with Quebec beef spice
  • Cornish Hen with bicentennial seasoning
  • Pork with bavarian style seasoning

We had a friend over and made a beer pairing tasting menu. Negra Modelo was served with the appetizer, followed by a taste of each protein with the sides. The beer and food was judged based on the flavor of each, whether the spices complemented the food, and if the beer paired well with each “course.” On to the tasting notes:

Negra Modelo (ABV: 5.4%)

Appearance: Dark caramel with a red hue

Aroma: Sweet scents with subtle scents of toast

Taste: Sweet malts give caramel flavor, biscuit flavor with light herbal and earthy tastes

Mouthfeel: Clean and crisp with lingering sweetness

Overall: A pleasant surprise, Negra Modelo provides more character than expected. While it is an InBev beer, I can forgive that if the brew offers some flavor. For a lager from Mexico, it offers the basic profile of a lager with extra sweetness of caramel and a toasty flavor as well. Tastes like it would pair well with fall foods. So here we go!

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Endless Road Trip: Collingswood Pop Shop

There is more to South Jersey than the Real Housewives: there is food. We were recently visiting  to celebrate my future sister-in-law”s birthday and went to the Pop Shop in Collingswood, NJ. The name “pop shop” insinuates great ice cream floats, milk shakes, and fountain soda. However, I noticed that every waiter was wearing shirts touting their love for cheese. The shop was featured on Food Network”s Throwdown with Bobby Flay for their grilled cheese. The menu features the sandwiches from the show so some of us got that, while future sister-in-law ordered the trophy of dessert breakfasts – s”mores french toast. Then of course, we all gorged ourselves with desserts. Enough chit chat – on to the food.

S”mores French Toast:

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Under the heading of “Fantastic French Toast Dreams,” you will find cinnamon bun french toast, banana”s foster, and even ham and cheese. But then you see the s”mores french toast on the menu and by chance see a waiter flaunting a pile of french toast, graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow on what has to be a silver platter. Clearly someone at the table is ordering the s”mores french toast. Sister-in-law ordered it with a small amount of persuasion from the table and offers to give up half of their sandwich for a bite of the gooey french toast.  Well I got my bite in a trade for some bacon and cheese fries. The bite included savory fresh french toast  soaked with chocolate sauce. Then the marshmallow sauce that glues the stack of french toast together hits you. Your bite must include a piece of the top of the stack, since that is where the crunch of the graham cracker comes from. While I would never be able to finish an entire dish of it, I would suggest someone at my table order it again.

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The Cronut of Pasta

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The only problem with pasta…is that it isn’t a cake.

Until now.

Renowned noodle-maker Giovanni Rana shared this recipe for TORTELLINI BIRTHDAY CAKE. Yes, you read that right. Yes, you need to make this NOW.

Tortellini Birthday Cake

1 22 oz. package Giovanni Rana Cheese ‘Delicato’ Tortellini
1/2 cup Giovanni Rana Marinara Sauce
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, divided
1/4 cup butter, plus extra for pan
1/4 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated fontina cheese, divided
1 egg
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup ricotta

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Devilishly Good: Pumpkin & Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

Pumpkin Devils on Horseback

One of my all-time, go-to apps is blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto, or as date eaters in the know call them, Devils on Horseback. They’re really simple to prepare and cook in a matter of minutes, plus their sticky-sweet-chewy-saltiness makes them sooo addictive.

I recently attended a fall potluck party and decided to autumn-ize my favorite devils by subbing the normal blue cheese filling with pumpkin goat cheese. They were just as delicious as the original version, with a festive seasonal twist. Your friends will rave about them, and only you will have to know the spooooky secret of these fall treats: they’re stupid easy to make.

Pumpkin Devils on Horseback

20 dates, pitted
1 small (about 4oz) goat cheese log
1/8 cup pumpkin puree
8 (thin!) slices of good prosciutto
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
black pepper & sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Let the goat cheese sit out for awhile so it’s nice and softened, then combine with the pumpkin puree. Add pumpkin pie spice and a couple pinches of S&P.

Stuff the dates with your filling – you want them to be nice and full but not overflowing, because obv the cheese is going to get melty in the oven and you don’t want a huge mess on your hands. I probably used about 1-2 teaspoons in each date?

Wrap each stuffed date in prosciutto. Just tear off a 1″ ribbon from the slice and stick it around the fruit. It doesn’t have to be perfect at all.

Place all your stuffed & wrapped dates on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake in the oven for just about 5-10 minutes. Once the prosciutto has kind of “melted” into the date and you can see the bottom of the dates slightly caramelizing, you’re good to go. Make sure to let these devils cool for about 10 minutes before serving – they get hotter than hell in that oven!

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Acorn Squash Fondue

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Who doesn’t like cheese? Where I used to work, we determined that chocolate and cheese are the only foods that could really go with just about anything. Including each other. Go ahead – try to say otherwise. Add in the fall mood of us good-hearted folks, and my fiance and I decided to try out a twist on The Chew’s acorn squash fondue. We’re both trying to watch what we eat, so we tried to modify it to a “light” version. I was skeptical of whether or not you would taste the squash in the fondue, but the flavor is there, adding a slightly sweet and buttery flavor to the creamy cheese.

As we were picking our acorn squash at the farm, we looked up “how to pick an acorn squash.” While things like bananas, tomatoes, and most other produce have specific ways of showing they are ripe and ready, acorn squash isn’t as easy. So here’s the scoop – you need to find an acorn squash that is “heavy for its size.” Then, you want to find one that also has a balance of orange and green color. So there you have it – now you know you’ll have the perfect acorn squash. For our fondue at least, we followed the guidelines and the squash came out well.

The recipe is pretty simple. You’ll need to pick a balance of cheeses that you enjoy. The Chew recommends using Mascarpone cheese in the mix to add texture. I don’t think it was needed, but she did enjoy it so it’s really up to you. We picked a blend of Swiss and Smoked Gouda (since that’s what we had) and it turned out well. Dippers are up to you – we limited our bread intake, but that is the clear front runner. We also had radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, and apples. My favorite dipper was the apples.

Acorn Squash Fondue

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